Newcastle and Barcelona second goalkeepers will be going through decisive moments in their careers before the transfer window opens in January.
The Magpies and Blaugrana are currently in a dilemma as the season begins to enter a crucial stage. Their number one goalies, Nick Pope and Marc-André ter Stegen respectively, have to be sidelined due to their injuries. They both will not return until early April or March, respectively.
This is a huge loss for both teams since their domestic and continental campaigns will be decided in the coming months before their return. Eddie Howe’s men are set to square off AC Milan in the Champions League to fight for at least third spot in Group F. They are currently sitting sixth, ten points adrift from the league leader, Arsenal.
Meanwhile, the Catalan side has sealed their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League this season. Yet, they are still struggling to level their arch-rival, Real Madrid, as well as Girona, in La Liga. Frankie de Jong and co are still trailing seven points behind Girona on the table.
Both will rely on their current backups, Martin Dubravka and Iñaki Peña, for the time being. They both have the potential to shine during these crucial moments, which could define their future, either on their current side or elsewhere.
Nevertheless, both could also be returning to the bench once they fail to impress in the big games. Both Newcastle and Barcelona happen to be eyeing the same target, free agent David de Gea. So can they prove their worth in critical times like now?
Martin Dubravka (Newcastle United)
The 34-year-old goalie was the Magpies’s number one between the sticks from the 2018/19 season to 2021/22. He lost his place after the arrival of Nick Pope. The Slovakian international excels at saving long shots and long passes. Before Pope’s injury, he only featured once this season.
It was in the EFL Cup win over Manchester United. He kept a clean sheet as Newcastle thrashed Erik ten Hag’s men 3-0. Dubravka was crucial in denying Mason Mount and Anthony Martial two golden chances, as well as saving Casemiro’s long shot attempt.
Unfortunately, he could not replicate his form in the midweek game against Everton despite making three saves. Newcastle was hapless as they were beaten hard 3-0 on the road, largely due to Kieran Trippier’s double error leading to their first two concessions. The Magpies’ boss, Eddie Howe, insists that he laid his trust on the goalie who was loaned out to Manchester United in the 2022/23 campaign.
Yet, things might change, should his form digress. Newcastle could consider signing Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale, which is the latest name linked to a move to St. James’s Park in January beside the former Manchester United shot stopper.
Iñaki Peña (Barcelona)
Barcelona faces the same situation at the moment with ter Stegen’s injury. Unlike Newcastle, whi has an experienced international goalie to rely on, the Catalan side only has their academy graduate Inaki Peña at their disposal. The 24-year-old goalkeeper has played four games so far this season, winning twice and drawing once.
Peña’s most notable form so far in the 2023–24 campaign was when he made two crucial saves while thumping Atlético Madrid in a narrow 1-0 win on match week 15 of La Liga. He was also impressive while beating FC Porto 2-1 in the Champions League.
Previously, the goalie, who only featured in five fixtures last season, put on a great show in the Europa League 2021/22 round of 16 during his loan spell at Galatasaray. He inspired the Turkish side to hold his parent club to a goalless draw in the first leg at Camp Nou. Peña made three crucial saves, two of which were from Memphis Depay, and was even named the man of the match. Unfortunately, he failed to help Galatasaray progress, as they were defeated 2-1 at home.
Peña appears to have the potential to follow in Victor Valdes’ footsteps in the future. Should he choose to stay after ter Stegen’s recovery, he could be an ideal deputy for the German shot stopper. Should he be consistently in form, Xavi might consider fielding him more often to rotate the squad and perhaps become the next number one goalie in the near future.